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THE BIRTH OF ROME
Synopsis of Chapter 24: The Oracle of Delphi Knows Him
Anger against the king is openly discussed. Publius Valerius forms a secret society called The Republicans. Brutus and Vitellia are worried by the increasing influence of Sextus (son of Superbus and Tullia) over their sons Titus and Tiberius. The journey taken by Brutus and the king's two sons to Delphi is told in detail; the Oracle foreshadows several strange portents. Superbus and Sextus hatch a plan to take the Latin city of Gabii by intrigue. Brutus' ward, young Collatinus, marries the beautiful girl next door, Lucretia.
Excerpt from Chapter 24: The Oracle of Delphi Knows Him
Their gifts were deemed worthy, and an attendant escorted them into the Temple of Apollo, built over the crack in the earth that was originally the home of the serpent Python. The attendant took them in as far as the eternal flame, and gestured that they should continue on alone. In the dim light they could barely make out the far end of the temple, where the adyton of the Oracle was located. The adyton measured twelve feet deep by nine feet across, and only the priestess Pythia was allowed in its precinct. They could barely discern a small hump in the very center of the adyton, over the crack in the earth. As they got closer they could see it was a hollow stone carved to look like a knotted net. Luc had heard of this stone; it was called the Omphalos, and was reported to be in the exact center of the universe. To Gaia, the Grandmother Earth, the Omphalos was the navel of the world, around which everything on earth revolved.
Sitting on a tripod in the shadows next the Omphalos was a small, dark hooded figure, Pythia herself. Pythia communicated with the gods through the Omphalos, which channeled an intoxicating gas from the levels below. In a thin, reedy voice the oracle spoke to the visitors.
"Your gifts reflect your true natures." She raised a bony finger to point at Luc. "Yours most of all."
Spontaneously Titus and Arruns began to laugh, for the gift Brutus had offered the oracle was nothing more than a wooden stick. What they did not know is that Luc had prepared this gift before they had left Roma, and hidden within the hollow center of the stick was a baton made of solid gold. The oracle was actually saying that within Brutus' humble exterior lived a man of great value.
Tempted to mock the oracle because of her comment on their gifts, Arruns challenged Pythia by asking her which of them would inherit the kingdom of Roma. From the depths of the earth, rising through the hollow chamber of the Omphalos, came the reply.
"Whichever of you, young men, shall be the first to kiss his mother, he shall hold supreme sway in Rome."
Again Titus and Arruns tittered, thinking this no kind of answer of all. Next, they wanted to ask about the snake coming from the column and slithering across the path of the king, but they didn't want Cousin Brutus to know the true purpose of their mission, so they dismissed him and asked him to wait outside. With a deep bow he thought appropriate for such a mystical figure, Luc backed out of the temple until he reached the eternal flame, then turn and walked out into the blinding sunshine.